Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Walking With Wolves - 2

Beautiful. Magnificent.

Just two of the words Kate and I uttered often as we observed the wolves at the California Wolf Center near Julian, CA. There were times that we just watched these handsome animals as Chelsea Davis, Animal Care and Facilities Manager of the Center, described their behavior. Four of the five Alaskan wolves in this enclosure are shown here.
The wolves soon accepted us as part of the Wednesday morning routine and paid little attention to us or the clicking of the shutters as we took over 400 photos during the two-hour visit.

We asked a few questions, but it was Chelsea, who in an easy comfortable manner, passed along story after story about the wolves.

In one story, Chelsea told us about one of the wolves having to be placed on a "no meat" diet. Instead of meat, kibbles were placed in a pan in a separate eating area for this wolf. To make the kibbles a bit more appealing, the staff added some chicken broth to the dry food.
Well, it seemed kibbles were not a hit, but the wolf figured out a plan to get some meat into her diet.
Over a period of days, the following plan developed: She emptied the kibbles bowl on the ground and then, from a distance, watched a group of ravens begin eating the kibbles. The routine continued until a number of ravens would gather to eat the kibbles.
The staff thought the wolf was eating the kibbles, but did notice that the wolf did not seem to be gaining weight.
When they decided to watch the wolf after the wolf's food was put out, they observed the wolf tip over the bowl filled with kibbles and then leave the area to watch what would happen to the kibbles.
What the staff saw was that the wolf waited for several ravens to gather and then ever so slowly rose just enough to spring into the area and capture a raven, thus getting some meat into its diet.
Now when the ravens learned not to gather there to eat kibbles, the wolf learned to grab a few mouthfuls of kibbles and move them to a different location.
When the ravens found the food in the new location and once again gathered to eat there, the wolf again killed one of the ravens.
Chelsea passed along other examples of the relationship between ravens and wolves. The wolves would learn that when they saw ravens circling in the air, food was probably below.

If ravens came upon a frozen carcass, they would search for a pack of wolves and then annoy them by flying close enough to peck them. The wolves would then follow the ravens to the game, whereupon the wolves would break the frozen surface of the carcass, which the ravens could not do, exposing food for both themselves and the ravens.
The wolves were in their full winter coat on the day we had signed up for the Photography Tour.

So, the striking coats were now gorgeous.

By the end of the second hour, we were wondering about wolves in the wild making a comback from endangered status.

So, it was quite a jolt to learn (from our friend Mary) that one of the most famous wolves in Yellowstone National Park was shot and killed (legally) by hunters over the weekend. Known as "'06 Female," the alpha female of a pack in Yellowstone’s northeastern Lamar Valley was called a “rock star” by wolf watchers for her strength, hunting skill, and devotion to her pups.

(Follow the story of the successful re-introduction of wolves into Yellowstone National Park at www.yellowstonenationalpark.com/wolves).

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